History of the Interstate Highway System
Futuristic elevated highway as imagined in "Interregional Highways." From original caption: ". . . a [department store] show window [seen on the left] at the elevated level [is] dressed appropiately with the kind of large display that would be needed for comprehension by express traffic.
The Interstate System has been called the Greatest Public Works Project in History. From the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the Interstate System has been a part of our culture as construction projects, as transportation in our daily lives, and as an integral part of the American way of life. Every citizen has been touched by it, if not directly as motorists, then indirectly because every item we buy has been on the Interstate System at some point. President Eisenhower considered it one of the most important achievements of his two terms in office, and historians agree.
In this section, you will find articles explaining the origins of the Interstate System and how it came together, as well as other aspects of its development. Check the bibliography for additional readings on all aspects of the story. Links will connect you to other sources of information.
- The Video Gallery: Motion pictures have frequently portrayed the American highway as well as the allure of the open road. Many of these were produced by the Bureau of Public Roads—the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration.
- Then and Now: Just for fun, here's a look at how much things have changed since the 1950s.
- Ike's Interstates at 50: Young Dwight Eisenhower's views on the importance of good roads later served as a catalyst in creating today's half-century-old interstate highway system. From Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration.
- The Battle of Its Life: Even as construction continued at a record pace, the Interstate System needed a rescuer—and found one in Rex Whitton of Missouri.
- June 29, 1956: A Day in History: The day that President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was filled with the usual mix of national, international, feature, sports, and cultural activities as reported in newspapers across the country.
- Eisenhower Audio Gallery: A collection of speeches by President Eisenhower highlighting his strong commitment to the Interstate Highway System.
- Road Movies: Here is a partial list of films in which roads play a significant part.
- Highway Articles
- "The Year of the Interstate" from the January-February (2006) issue of Public Roads.
- "Essential to the National Interest" from the March-April (2006) issue of Public Roads.